Top Letters and Comments, June 8, 2018


Damage Assessment After Disasters

First off, I have been a follower of yours for a long time and (I think) was an early subscriber to AVweb. I got your article from another member within Texas Wing Civil Air Patrol.

After Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, many of us in Civil Air Patrol were involved in damage assessment.

While drones are extremely useful, they have two inherent limitations. First, flight time is limited to 20-30 minutes (typically, I understand some can now fly longer). Second, the drone must remain within sight of the pilot.

Contrast this with a Civil Air Patrol aircraft which can fly for three to four hours, from/to just about anywhere. Civil Air Patrol provided almost 400,000 geotagged images to Texas Emergency Management and FEMA of the damage produced by Hurricane Harvey. The area photographed included Corpus Christi through Houston to Beaumont and most of the rivers east of the I-35 corridor. This includes many areas where a drone could not have been used due to the limitations listed above. Although I cannot speak directly about Florida or Puerto Rico, I have colleagues who were involved in those missions and numbers were comparable.

Granted, Civil Air Patrol aircraft are flying at 1000′ AGL vs. the 100-400′ AGL of the drones. However, we are using prosumer grade cameras with zoom lenses so still get very good views of the area.

Civil Air Patrol is now starting the process of using drones to augment our current Aerial Photography mission.

I am not trying to discount the use of drones in Emergency Services and/or disaster recovery. However, I don’t think we should overlook the contributions of the members of Civil Air Patrol and their Missions for America.

– Maj. Mark Hammack, CAP

Hybrid Electric Airplanes

The current state of hybrid and full electric aircraft reminds me of where we were with conventional aircraft design in the early 1900s. The Wright Brothers had demonstrated the validity of powered flight, but by 1910, most airplanes were still fragile wood and fabric structures powered by balky and unreliable gasoline engines. Flights rarely lasted more than a few minutes and often ended with bent or broken airplanes and similarly bent pilots. Few people recognized the potential of the new invention and most pooh-poohed the idea of it ever becoming useful. Not even the true believers could foresee what an impact it would have on the future. Fast forward a hundred years and two world wars and you see what that original idea has become. I’m pretty sure it will not take another century to mature electric flight, but it will take some time and several major technical breakthroughs before it hits its stride. So, for now, we have the odd contraptions that will eventually morph into a truly useful device. Give it time.

– John McNamee

For GA at least I think hybrids are a dead end. They may be more practical for airliners where noise reduction and turbine life are larger payoffs. Electrics are another kettle of fish. I drive an electric car and never want to go back to an ICE, even with the current limitations of charging and range. The current crop of trainers with about one hour endurance wouldn’t work for me, but if that can get two or more hours, and apparently those are a real thing if not yet commercially available, I’d be all in. Just losing the vibration would make my pleasure flying much more pleasurable.

– Ron

After 100+ years there is still no evidence that electric can make it in the FREE market. As said, take away the government subsidies and take away the government laws/mandates, and then all you have left are a few eccentrics and hobbyists. There is no mass market for electrics UNLESS the government controls the market.

– Mark Fraser

This requires carrying the weight of a battery and the weight of an engine. Does not seem workable for the single-engine case nor for the multi-engine case since an even larger and heavier battery is required. We’re a long way from getting the energy density of a battery to the energy density of avgas or jet-A. If that energy density is attained, it then has to be made a couple orders of magnitude more reliable than the current LI-ion technology. We’ve seen what happens when one of those fails – think burning cellphones and the 787 issue. Imagine what happens if there’s 10 to 100X the amount of energy stored and one fails.

– Fred Wedemeier

Perception vs. Reality

ANYONE that has ever gotten out of Iowa, MN or MD knows there are myriad programs for minorities and women. I have personal experience with aviation, AND the military. Anyone smarter than their iPhone can find supporting evidence. (Including lowering standards in military flight training for both groups!!!)

Contrary to what most parents tell their kids, that they can grow up to be “anything they want to be,” most of life’s meaningful endeavors also take ability! Forcing someone down a specific path in which they have no interest or ability is a waste of resources. And is actually screwing someone else with the ability but not the resources to become qualified, and in fact … the profession itself!!!

Hit me up I’ll be more than happy to enlighten you with the names, and places of offences!

– Dr. Sid

Psychology of Pilot Responses

After all the jump flying that I have done in the past 25 years, I have seen all kinds of reactions from student skydivers on their first jump. The subconscious mind can do some strange things on its own when a perceived danger pops up. I am convinced that no one will really know how they will react to an emergency situation, even when trained in the simulator, until one actually happens. The reaction of the first officer in the last Southwest incident just proves my theory. I have not experienced a rapid decompression in flight but have had door seal failures. Even door seal failures are extremely loud making communication with other crewmembers difficult if not impossible if using the usual TSO’d airline headsets or cockpit speaker for ATC communication. Add to that the condensation that can happen and the reaction to reduced cabin pressure to the ears and it is no wonder the Southwest FO reported what his reaction was.

– Matthew Wagner